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JUDD: Remembering Stewart Kilgore’s life of service | Local News

In the years that I have lived in Greene County, there seems to have been Stewart Kilgore. And now, suddenly, he’s gone.

How is it possible ? It just doesn’t sound like something that can be true.

Stewart is laid to rest this afternoon at Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Afton. Life in Greene County will continue, but Stewart will no longer be with us physically. But I’m sure that every time a local law enforcement officer walks down the aisle of a store with a child by their side, helping that child pick out a Christmas present for a loved one, Stewart will be there, walking unseen by his side.

Stewart, you see, left something behind when he left this world so recently: a legacy.

Part of that legacy that meant a lot to him was the Shop With a Cop program. He and his wife, Brenda Jean, formed this non-profit charity which, as Stewart’s obituary so aptly puts it, “helps underprivileged families get through a Christmas that otherwise might not have location”.

Stewart was just the kind of man to do something like that. If you’ve been around Stewart a lot, it didn’t take long for you to detect a key aspect of his personal character: Stewart Cain Kilgore II cared about people. And not in a sappy, purely sentimental way, but in a practical way.

Stewart was a doer and an example. There have been, and still are, many law enforcement officers driven by the impulse to better our community at work and beyond work. Stewart possessed a characteristic ability to give this charitable and caring impulse a tangible way of expressing itself.

For example, when Stewart saw families with little chance of having the kind of Christmas they would like to have, he and his wife decided to implement the local Shop With a Cop program and coordinate it for years. . When he realized that people needed to understand how to respect, understand and handle guns safely, he became a strong advocate for local gun safety education.

For me personally, however, the best thing about Stewart was simply his friendliness. I don’t think I’ve ever passed him in a parking lot, hallway, or store aisle without him greeting me warmly and asking me how everything was going. He didn’t have to do this, but he did. Always.

When I first met Stewart was in the 1980s, when I was a new writer for the Greeneville Sun and Stewart was a United States Marshal. Part of my news covered the federal court, which at the time was headquartered in what is now the main branch of the Greeneville Federal Bank, just across the parking lot side of the Sun newspaper office. Thomas Hull was the federal judge here at that time.

One of the federal court rules, at least at the time, was that there were to be no cameras in the courtroom or even in the hallways around the courtroom when the court was sitting, unless the judge has expressly declared an exception. The exceptions generally applied only to events such as “naturalization” ceremonies, in which U.S. citizenship is granted to foreign nationals who have come to the United States and successfully completed the study and request required.

Once, while a major trial was in progress in the upper level courtroom of the federal courthouse, I was in the hallway during a momentary hiatus in courtroom activity. A reporter from another regional newspaper stormed down this hallway, clearly very upset about something (he was probably just late), and he had a camera in his hand. He had forgotten the no cameras rule in his haste.

Federal Marshal Stewart Kilgore seemed to instantly materialize out of nowhere, finger pointed at the camera and voice loud and clear reaffirming the dictate of no cameras. The reporter, chagrined, stammered and tried to defend himself by stating that he was not going to use the camera, that he was just keeping it so it wouldn’t be lost or stolen. Stewart firmly informed the offender that court rules were court rules and the reporter should know them, and the Marshal’s Service was prepared to provide free guardianship of his camera for as long as necessary.

The newly enlightened reporter decided that maybe his case wasn’t so urgent after all, and left the building, clutching his contraband device.

Stewart was a friendly soul, but he took his duty seriously. In the end, you didn’t want to mess with Stewart, because Stewart would do his job.

This week, I learned about Stewart from his obituary. Little did I know he joined the US Army at 17 and served in the Vietnam War, earning three purple hearts, two bronze stars, and one silver star. I didn’t know he had also been an Army Ranger.

Little did I know that he had served for years as a Sunday school teacher and youth mentor at Gethsemane UMC. And I didn’t realize he wasn’t just a father, but a grandfather and a great-grandfather.

I also didn’t know his middle name was Cain. And the first thing that came to mind when I saw his full name on the obituary was how absolutely perfect Cain Kilgore’s name would be for the name of a tough detective character in a novel by Mickey Spillane’s luscious pocket.

Can’t see it on the pharmacy paperback holder? “Cain Kilgore: PI” Move over, Mike Hammer!

I think Stewart would probably laugh at that idea.

Stewart Kilgore, thank you for your life, your kindness and your endless service. Good luck, sir. We will miss you.

Cameron Judd is a Tennessean born and raised in Cookeville, and a resident of Greene County since 1982. An award-winning columnist and widely published author of westerns and fiction, he is retired from The Greeneville Sun. Him and his wife Rhonda lives in Chuckey.